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Angels in heaven
Gia, 1998

Pictures from movie

From the Associated Press. January 31, 1998

Angelina Jolie plays a tragic supermodel in HBO's "Gia"
New York -- There are all sorts of helpful hints in "Gia." Practice safe sex. Steer clear of heroin. And, ladies, don't whip out your knife over every little thing.
An HBO original film, "Gia" is a cautionary tale about the fashion industry in the late 1970s, and the supermodel who paid the price for its excesses. Bold, rambunctious and bleakly inspiring, "Gia" has much to say.
And does so persuasively, thanks to Angelina Jolie. As the sometimes fragile, sometimes feral Gia, radiant with living yet stalked by a death wish, Jolie fashions a performance in this film that does full justice to Gia's in life.
"I found Gia to be simple, sweet," says Jolie. "But because of her extreme nature, because she was so out there, she really (screwed) things up." Jolie is commanding as she shows us how. ("Gia" premieres on HBO Saturday at 9 p.m. EST, with additional airings Feb. 3, 8, 12, 16 and 18.)
It was in 1977 that 17-year-old Gia Marie Carangi took flight from her troubled home in Philadelphia. Armed with beauty, attitude and that switchblade, she fled to New York City to become a model. Received as an earthy, erotic counterstroke to the perfect blondes then crowding fashion magazines, Gia (pronounced GEE-uh) swiftly became a one-word, worldwide sensation.
But with the glamour came a nonstop social whirl. Drugs and debauchery. Then addiction and disease. In November 1986, the incomparable Gia distinguished herself in a ghastly new way: At 26, she became one of the first women in America to die of AIDS.
Jolie wasn't eager to accept this role.
"If the film was done badly, it could have easily been exploitative," she says, "encouraging the wrong things, making the wrong things cool."
Besides, she wondered how Gia's lesbianism would be depicted. "The sex between women -- I didn't know if they could do that right."
At 22, Jolie has appeared in the miniseries "True Women," the cable movie "George Wallace," and feature films including "Hackers," where she met Jonny Lee Miller, a castmate who is now her husband.
And she is the daughter of Jon Voight, whom she recalls seeing in "The Champ" when she was 2 or 3. "I thought my father died," she says. "I cried."
Over sandwiches in an HBO office commandeered for this midday interview, Jolie reveals herself to be a beauty, in the extreme. All eyes, lips, immodest curves. Yet she also displays a sylph-like delicacy. "Gia" makes use of it all.
"To feel that I am pretty -- that's nice," she says, when the subject is raised, "but what's great is to feel that I'm smart, that my opinion matters. I know tomorrow something could happen to me." To her looks, she means, although she doesn't specify what might befall them. "I just wouldn't want to count on beauty."
A film that undercuts the beauty myth, and deploys Jolie to do it, "Gia" was shot in Los Angeles last summer. In the service of the role, she lived alone, dark and private, at a Hollywood hotel, descending into a purposeful funk.
"But I enjoyed doing the sex scenes," she says.
Elizabeth Mitchell plays Linda, a makeup artist with whom Gia falls deeply in love.
"We really respected each other as actors," says Jolie, "but we also had fun. I'm married to a man and she's got a boyfriend, but we could both say, "This is nice, it's nice to kiss you,' and acknowledge that moment. And we did."
Not so nice for Jolie was filming the scene when her mother, played by Mercedes Ruehl, is about to return to Philadelphia after spending time with Gia in Manhattan.
"I've already lost Linda, and I'm starting to take pills, and now I'm going to be alone," Jolie explains. "To do the scene, I had to really figure out what I've lost in my own life. And, if I had to beg for a person not to leave, who would that person be and what would I say?"
"Were you successful in keeping that real-life person from leaving you?"
"No," says Jolie, her eyes glistening. "That scene ... it hurt to do."
"Gia" was shot in sequence, so Jolie filmed her final scenes in a hospital bed, her hair gone, her body covered with sores. Then she left L.A. for Manhattan, where she says she knew no one and felt weird. Her husband was in London. Still is.
"Right now, I've chosen to be quite alone," Jolie